February 2, 2015

My First Peak


Mount Pamitinan

Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Mount Pamitinan
Photos © Erika Ochosa

Growing up, one of my favorite activities was getting lost in my neighbors' backyards. We had lived in a village for exclusive use of military personnel. Houses were in an identical cookie-cutter shape, conveniently erected on lots that were at least 2000 sqm in size. Fences and concrete walls were not commonplace and house-hopping was inevitable. I'd find myself on opposite ends of the village faster than the speed of light. I'd come home late in the afternoon two shades darker than I was when I woke up. Even as a kid, I loved being outdoors and getting dirty (pun intended). Climbing a mountain, is then second nature to me. 

My friend, Nella, is one of the most experienced mountain climbers I know and what better way to experience it than with her? She planned an easy hike for us just 1.5 hours away from the city. Even as an avid climber, she had no idea that this place existed in the pockets of Rodriguez, Rizal. After breakfast and a long conversation with our guide, we  found ourselves finally prepared to make our ascent to the beautiful Mt. Pamitinan. It all started with a scenic crossing of an economically designed suspension footbridge spanning across a shallow stream. It had the most perfect view of the mountain were about to climb. 


Cue in perfect song:

"Such a feelin's comin' over me 
There is wonder in 'most ev'ry thing I see
Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes
And I won't be surprised if it's a dream"
-Top of the World/The Carpenters

I've absolutely no climbing experience and I had no idea if it was easy or not but I was surprised to be having a difficult time catching my breath within the first 15 minutes despite how fit I thought I was. I noticed how we were all holding back with our prides poking fun at us, as no one dared to ask for a break until Nella, herself, called for it. Apparently, the first 30 mins would always be difficult to anyone with any level of experience, Fun fact! This seemed true as things got easier as we got higher. 

I must say, getting to the summit, much like surfing had the same effect on me: The body completely forgets about the exhaustion and suddenly feels a jolt of energy--a reset. Being on top of a mountain gave me a sense of power and invincibility. It's not every day that you get a bird's eye view of the ground you stood on half an hour ago. Feeling nothing but the  wind on your face and the sun in your eyes, and being completely isolated introduces you to a completely different dimension of your being.  


Again, that song.

"Somethin' in the wind has learned my name
And it's tellin' me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There's a pleasin' sense of happiness for me"
-Top of the World/The Carpenters

The descent was more gentle as we passed through lush greenery and vegetation that finished off in a skim path, lined with a Mahogany trees (Which I failed to take a photo of -- Stupid me). Towards the end of the trek, bodies of water raced with us leading to natural pools that were dying to replenish your sun-dried tomato of a body. But, we couldn't stop as we were eager for the bigger surprise up ahead!

Getting on elevation zero, we eyed locals lounging in a raft on what seemed like a very large body of water. Little did we know, it was already the mouth of the Wawa Dam. After passing a few bamboo shanties, we were led to a footbridge that was nowhere near satisfactory structural stability. It was crazy. Our guide even managed to brag about it being built during the time of the Spanish colonization. But I was less than interested to hear his story as I stood in awe at the cascading waters before me. I sincerely thought of it as the Philippines' very own version of the Niagra falls -- see photo above. Ok, not really, but I bet you can see some sort of resemblance. 

I didn't realize how unforgivingly one is drawn to water after a solid climb.

It was a great first experience. It's level of difficulty is just well-suited for beginners. The thrill it gave me was good enough to challenge me to take on a harder trail, but wasn't difficult enough to discourage me from doing it again. Good job, Nella.  It also made me realize that climbing isn't such an expensive recreation and that there are a multitude of mountains easily accesible from Manila. I wouldn't regret missing my Friday night outs for weekends like this!

To the first of many more climbing adventures, Cheers!